In This Review

How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions On Vietnam, 1954 And 1965
How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions On Vietnam, 1954 And 1965
By John P. Burke and Fred I. Greenstein
Russell Sage Foundation, 1989, 339 pp.

Two political scientists, drawing on once-secret documentation, reconstruct, compare and analyze how President Eisenhower decided in 1954 not to commit American forces to Vietnam, and how President Johnson decided the contrary in 1965. While cautioning against too theoretical an approach to presidential decision-making, they see positive lessons in Eisenhower's structured advisory system and negative ones in Johnson's improvisation. The fact that the authors see the 1954 decision as sound and the 1965 one as disastrous may shape their conclusions. A stimulating book.